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Are you unknowingly committing a white-collar crime at work?

Are you unknowingly committing a white-collar crime at work?


Most people who break the law do so with obvious intentions. Someone who embezzles from their employer may go to great lengths to try to hide their illegal economic activity from the company.


However, there are also scenarios in which workers might unknowingly and unintentionally commit crimes while at work. White-collar criminal offenses can sometimes result from company policies or the way that organizations train new workers. Managers and others in positions of power may manipulate people into doing illegal things for personal gain, leaving other workers at risk of criminal charges.

What constitutes a white-collar crime?

White-collar criminal offenses are economic crimes. Various types of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering are all white-collar criminal offenses. Those who work in accounting or billing departments, in healthcare, in real estate or in industries adjacent to the financial industry may be at particularly high risk of white-collar criminal charges. Employees could break the law simply by following their training or the instructions of a supervisor.

How can workers unintentionally break the law?

Perhaps someone accepts a job in the billing department at a hospital. The training that they receive might instruct them to handle certain types of charges in a specific way. They might separate out certain services to bill for them individually and increase what the company receives from insurance providers. They might also receive instructions to upcharge or intentionally misrepresent the services provided as a way of increasing company revenue.


Other times, company systems for reporting sales or transferring funds could lead to someone facing allegations of financial crimes. The unfortunate reality is that a worker does not necessarily need to derive direct financial benefit to face white-collar criminal charges. Their involvement in what seems like a criminal conspiracy could be enough to warrant their prosecution. Many times, the allegations they face could be federal offenses rather than state charges.


Professionals who understand how they might accidentally commit white-collar crimes can work to protect themselves from the worst-case scenario in which they end up subject to significant penalties simply for following their training or the instructions of a supervisor. Recognizing that white-collar crimes are sometimes unintentional could help workers protect themselves from a risky situation.


With that said, employees who have already been accused of wrongdoing may need to discuss their situation at length and review the state’s evidence with a skilled legal team to determine how they can defend against their pending charges, as tough circumstances can sometimes unfold even when people do their best to avoid them.